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Northern Michigan sweeps St. Cloud State with group offensive effort

Vigier, Higby, Cherniwchan line leads Wildcats in Game 2

October 16, 2011
By MATT WELLENS - Journal Sports Editor ( , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE - For the Northern Michigan University hockey team to have offensive success this season, head coach Walt Kyle called upon his team in the preseason to light the lamp by committee since the Wildcats lacked a prolific goal scorer in the lineup.

Through four games, the Wildcats have not only received the group effort Kyle called for, but they may have found that go-to-goal scorer that was not expected to arise this year.

"I think we have a lot of guys capable of providing offense," Kyle said. "We hope everyone continues here to grow their game and that's important.

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"I was real pleased with our offensive effort."

NMU senior Justin Florek of Marquette recorded his fourth goal of the season while sophomores Stephen Vigier and Erik Higby became the seventh and eighth Wildcats to find the back of the net this season in a 3-2 victory over the St. Cloud State Huskies, giving Northern the weekend sweep.

On Friday night, it was the line of junior Matt Thurber, Reed Seckel and Kory Kaunisto leading the scoring effort as the best line.

On Saturday, the "A-Team" award went to Higby, Vigier and Andrew Cherniwchan.

According to Kyle, those three were the Wildcats top line in Game 2.

"We had a number of opportunities and on that last power play, I thought those guys really had a chance to ice it and put those guys away."

Unlike Friday's top line, Higby, Vigier and Cherniwchan spent time together last season so they had chemistry coming into the season, even if it didn't show in Madison, Wis.

"We kind of struggled the first weekend in Wisconsin and it was nice to get a couple points this weekend," Higby said. "We played a lot together last year so we had a lot of chemistry and knew it was going to happen eventually."

Nonconference games are typically a time for coaches to experiment with different line combinations and Kyle has done so on defense. His top three forward lines, however, have remained the same in all four games against Wisconsin and St. Cloud.

Vigier credited the consistency for creating the chemistry Northern has found among its forwards through two weekends of play.

"We have four lines that are clicking real well right now," Vigier said. "We have great chemistry and for a lot of guys to be putting pucks in the net, its going to help us big time."

Vigier gave NMU a 1-0 lead in the first period only 2:26 into the game while Florek got a piece of a Kyle Follmer blast from the blue line to make it 2-0.

The Huskies would sneak in a score past NMU sophomore netminder Jared Coreau 2.9 seconds prior to the first intermission. But Higby split a pair of Husky defenders on a breakaway and beat SCSU's freshman goalie Ryan Faragher top shelf to put NMU back up by two scores 6:49 into the second period.

"I was kind of late coming out of the zone and I ended up swooping back through the middle," Higby said. "The D widened out and Jake (Johnson) hit me with a great pass and I just put it over the goalie's shoulder."

All three of Northern's goals on Saturday were set up by defensemen with Vigier and Florek's goals coming from the blue line.

Freshmen defensemen Mitch Jones and Cherniwchan set up Vigier on the first score and Follmer was the catalyst on Florek's goal with an assist from junior defensemen Scott Macaulay.

Macaulay later picked up his fourth assist of the season to tie Thurber for the team high on Higby's goal, feeding Johnson the puck before it reached Higby.

"They've been moving the puck real well and it helps us for sure," Vigier said about the defensemen.

"They always have their heads up looking to make good offensive plays and its something a forward loves."

Notes: Both the Wildcats and Huskies played different goaltenders than Friday night. Coreau made 25 saves for NMU to improve to 1-1-0 on the season while Faragher made 20 saves in his first career start. ... NMU freshmen defensemen Jake Baker was given a five-minute major and game misconduct at 4:06 of the first period for a check from behind. He was ejected from the game but can return next week when NMU hosts Michigan to open CCHA play. ... After committing 20 penalties for 40 minutes in Madison, NMU was only called for five penalties for 21 minutes, though 10 minutes came from Baker's game misconduct. ... NMU killed all four SCSU power plays this weekend, including Baker's five-minute major in the first period ... SCSU scored on a six-on-five advantage for the second night in a row after pulling its goaltender, this time pulling within one with 28 seconds left in regulation. ... Kingsford native and former Marquette Ranger Kevin Gravel finished with a plus-minus rating of 0 on Saturday after recording a minus-4 on Friday.



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